Programs help to ensure kids have food for the weekend

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By Kayla Swanson

 For some Bullitt County Public Schools students, the weekend is not just a break from school, but also a break from getting food. 

Two programs, Blessings in a Backpack and Backpack Buddy, are working to stop that break and provide elementary school students with food to get through the weekend. 

Sponsor of Social Services Linda Nason said the programs have been going on for several years. Backpack Buddy is coordinated by Dare to Care and Nason coordinates Blessings in a Backpack, which was created to serve the schools not selected by Dare to Care. 

Freedom, Pleasant Grove and Old Mill elementary schools have the Blessings in a Backpack program, Nason said, and the other 10 elementary schools in the district have the Backpack Buddy program. 

Nason said students are selected by a parent or teacher referral. Paperwork is sent home to get permission from the parents of students referred by a teacher, she added.

Each school handles the distribution of food differently, but Nason said most schools have students come down to the family resource center or another central location at a certain time and pick up a backpack with the food in it. Other schools bring a bag of food to the student’s classroom and put it in the child’s backpack. 

No matter the process, Nason said the students are excited to receive their food. 

One family resource center coordinator told Nason one student was so excited you would have thought the child was getting a bike, she said. 

“It’s a very happy time,” Nason said. 

Family Resource Center coordinator for Lebanon Junction and Cedar Grove, Tammy Perdew, said sometimes students who are outside at recess or in another area who miss the time to pick up their backpack would come and find her to get it. 

“They can’t wait to get it every week,” she said.  

Some students, Perdew said, even ask for extra bags. 

Family Resource Center coordinator for Old Mill and Crossroads, Leigh Ann Lowery, said the students are happy to see Lowery when they come to get their backpack. 

“They’re very proud to take home their backpack of food,” she said. 

Students in the Blessings in a Backpack program receive a pre-selected meal that is the same each week including chicken noodle soup, ramen noodles, oatmeal, Pop Tarts, cereal, raisins and two Capri Suns, Lowery said. 

For the Backpack Buddy program, the food students get each week varies, Lowery said. Their backpacks have 2 proteins, 3-4 canned fruits and vegetables, pudding, sunflower seeds and 2 pieces of fresh fruit. 

This year, Lowery said Dare to Care is considering sending family size portions of food home with the students and rotating what they get each week to be more cost effective. 

There’s enough food in the backpack, Perdew said, to get the child through the weekend. 

“It’s keeping the truly, truly hungry kids fed,” she said. 

The food is ready to eat or microwavable and packaged in easy to open containers, Nason said. 

“They intentionally make it so its available and accessible to the child that uses it,” she said. 

Each school serves 20 to 50 students, Nason said. Dare to Care finds sponsors to fund the Backpack Buddy program and Blessings in a Backpack is funded by grants and donations from local businesses and individuals. 

Nason said Metro United Way and Amazon were two great supporters of the Blessings in a Backpack program. 

Perdew said some students do get put on a waiting list because the schools can serve only 50 kids a week.

At Lebanon Junction last year, she said 75 students were served each week and it was made possible because a private donation was made to help the students on the waiting list at the school.

For more information or to make a donation to either program or to a specific school, contact Nason at the Bullitt County Board of Education at 869-8000.